Over the past few years, several varsity athletic teams on campus have “adopted” young children with cancer from the area and have been acting as friends, role models and support systems for these children and their families. The softball, football, men’s soccer and women’s soccer teams have all adopted their own child through Friends of Jaclyn. Friends of Jaclyn is an organization that matches children with brain tumors to a sports team that “adopts” them and makes them honorary team members.
At Lawrence, three teams have adopted local children suffering from brain cancer. The football team adopted Luke Peter, a young boy from Neenah, originally diagnosed with grade III oligodendroglioma. Senior Nick Thackston described the team’s experience as a positive one, “The experience has been unlike any other as we have not only watched him grow up over the past three years but also growing close with his two older brothers, sister, and parents.”
The team has enjoyed hosting Peter’s class at practices for obstacle courses, going bowling, luncheons at school, and pumpkin carving in the fall during their time with Peter. “The relationship we have formed with Luke and the rest of the Peters family has showed many of us that sometimes the force of love acts as the best medicine, we have been blessed to have been chosen to support Luke and his family in the journey,” Thackston added.
The women’s softball team adopted Emma Broeniman from Appleton, who developed a brain tumor as a result of a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis type 1. Broeniman has been present for many softball games and the team makes sure to stay in touch with her during the offseason, carving pumpkins in the fall and visiting her at her house.
Dealing with surgeries and treatments during the duration of her time with the softball team, Broeniman has been able to use the team as an added support system. At their softball banquet in 2010, Broeniman was even awarded the “Most Inspirational Teammate” award, complete with her very own trophy.
The women’s soccer team adopted Hannah Sherwood from Neenah during the fall of 2010. Hannah spent six weeks in Boston for treatment, and during this time the team sent handmade cards every couple of weeks to help keep her spirits up. After returning to Appleton, Sherwood became an honorary captain of the team, attending many games and participating in bonding activities with the girls.
Senior forward Mallory Koula has found the experience to be a positive one: “I think that having Hannah join our team has added a completely new and positive dimension to the team. One of the best parts is hanging out and getting to know this amazing and unbelievably strong girl.”
Not only has getting to know her been fun, but she’s a motivation for the team as well. Koula explained, “Sometimes when I would have an off moment at a practice or a game I would find myself looking at my ‘Pray for Hannah’ wristband, and it lifts you up and lights a fire underneath you.”
Viking Tales is a sports column covering unique stories within LU Athletics.